It’s hard to remember life before PokerStars existed but there was once a time when you had to handle real cards and chips to play a game of poker. However, many poker players will have never stepped foot inside of a card room or casino to play a hand of live poker. Next time you get the opportunity though, there are many reasons why you should take a seat at a live poker table and play some cash games.
Depending on the location, most card rooms will have cash games at relatively low stakes that should suit all poker bankrolls. Take your seat and take a look around the table to see who you are up against. One of the most important skills you must use in live cash games is profiling your opponents; are they drinking? Are they comfortable handling chips and cards? Are they revealing their strategies in the way they speak about poker? Do they look nervous? Pay attention to these questions and more – the information that they reveal should help guide how you play your hands.
Typically, players will be a bit looser in a live cash game environment than they would be on PokerStars. After all, nobody chooses to sit in a poker game and fold hand after hand! If your intention is to make the best decisions and win some money, you should adopt a tight-aggressive strategy. While everyone around you is gambling with weak starting hands you should look to enter pots where it is likely you have the best hand. This means playing strong Aces like Ace-Ten and better, rather than hands like Ace-Two that are likely to be dominated. Slow playing is also hugely overrated in live cash games and should generally be ignored. If you pick up a big hand, either pre-flop or post-flop, then it usually pays to play it fast. Unless you’re unfortunate you will usually find one player on the table that is more than happy to pay you off.
In live cash games there are other factors you should be aware of that differ from playing on PokerStars too. Unlike online you will have to calculate how much money each player has in their stack yourself. Make sure you have at least an educated guess as to how much money each player in front of them has as this should dictate the way that you play. For example, there’s a big difference shoving with pocket Tens versus a player who has 30BBs to one who has 200BBs! It also makes sense to try and hit a set with a small pair versus an opponent who is playing 100BB+, but it’s a poor play versus someone with just 20BBs in front of them. If you make silly errors like these then you could live to regret it!
Different casinos and card rooms will often have slightly varied rules and etiquette. One common rule most clubs will allow is the option to straddle. If you’re not familiar with this rule, it means that the player to the left of the big blind has the optional choice to add in a third blind that is double the size. So, for example, in a £1/£2 cash game the straddle would be £4. While it can get expensive, there are benefits to straddling. If the game is tight and a bit boring, it encourages players to gamble a bit more as there is extra cash in the middle to steal. It will also give you an aggressive image in the eyes of the other players, which can be very valuable if you are a tighter player, because it will help you get paid off when you hit something big. Also, all straddles are live, which means that you will have the option to raise (if there hasn’t been a raise before it gets to you) or re-raise once it’s your turn to act. If you are lucky enough to have been dealt a strong hand – which will happen on occasion – then this can be hugely profitable. Many players will simply think you are defending your straddle and not believe you!
For many players, nothing will ever beat the convenience and joy of playing online poker on PokerStars. However, if you are after something a little different then live cash games are a great alternative. They are fun, potentially profitable and you may even make some friends at the table too.